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Justice

No Justice, No Peace – But I Still Have Hope

Timothy Conley | May 30, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Timothy Conley | May 30, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Sadness — that was the emotional feeling that came over my body as I watched the horrific and barbaric killing of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. As one of the officers had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, I was heartbroken watching and listening to Floyd beg for his life. His familiar words rang in my ears: “I can’t breathe…” the same words uttered by Eric Garner just six years ago. Then, Floyd’s body, now lifeless, stayed pinned under the officer. The officer’s knee wedged in Floyd’s neck as if his life did not matter. To the officer, he was subhuman. 

“When will there be justice for my brothers and sisters who continue to be treated in this racist, inhumane way?”

As I watched, tears began to flow from my face as this man now laid lifeless on a Minnesota street. I thought, “When will there be justice for my brothers and sisters who continue to be treated in this racist, inhumane way?” 

You see, according to research mapping police violence

  • 99% of killings by police in the United States from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime. 
  • Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. 
  • Police killed 1,099 people in 2019. Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. 

The statistics are a reminder of the racist system that has seen little change when it comes to law enforcement and justice — a system dating back to the chattel slavery of my ancestors in America, where “law enforcement” was at the hands of slavers. The Eurocentric perspective of history portrays the end of the Civil War in 1865 as a victory of the Emancipation Proclamation. This narrative was only a surface movement of change, of Reconstruction. Was this a truth? Or was this the rise to a new formation of the laws of slavery in the racist system known as Jim Crow? At the root of the new laws of enforcement was the creation of law enforcement agencies in America. 

A protestor in Minneapolis holds a sign that says "World Peace. No More Violence. It Starts With You."
A protestor in Minneapolis holds a sign that says “World Peace. No More Violence. It Starts With You.”

I find it interesting that while 1965 is often acknowledged as the end of Jim Crow laws in America, the guerilla police tactics of the time continue on today. It has been said for many years that men who used to wear the white sheets of the KKK slowly turned in those uniforms for a badge and gun. I remember my uncle sharing stories of how law enforcement in his hometown in Texas recruited its officers from the KKK. I find it interesting that the job title, “Peace Officer” is used today when referring to police officers. I just want to ask them, “For who? And do your fellow comrade blue bloods believe that my life doesn’t matter?” I hear the words in my head that I’ve heard so many times — words of protestors said all too often: “No Justice, No Peace!” 

“it is no surprise to me that often when police officers see me, they grip their gun holster”

Peace is not what I feel. What I feel is fear. Fear that some white person exerting their privilege will mistakenly call the police on me when I’m living within my rights. Fear that because of my large physical stature at 6’6” I will be profiled within the racist “buck” archetype. By definition, the “buck” is a man who has a specific goal: to brutalize the white man and rape the white woman. The encoding of this archetype has continuously been perpetuated in all forms of media. And it is no surprise to me that often when police officers see me, they grip their gun holster. The hardest part of this is that I’m a law-abiding citizen that works with local police in my community on police and community relations. However, none of this matters when fear and emotions set in for the officers that do not know me. 

Yet, I also feel a sense of hope — a hope that has carried black folks since 1619, a higher power. As a Baha’i, I’m encouraged and find my hope in the faith of the divine teachings of Baha’u’llah. One of my favorite quotations from these divine teachings is: 

“Now is the time for steadfastness. Now is the ripe moment for the stalwart warriors and champions to show forth courage and to demonstrate their heroism in the arena of service, until such time as God will exalt His Cause, will remove the distress and anxiety of His friends and trusted servants, and glorify those who were brought low among His creatures, to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them God’s heirs.” 

It is this guidance that gives me hope and strength to rise up and continue to do the work also defined by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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Comments

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  • Leili Towfigh
    Jun 1, 2020
    -
    Thank you, Tim, for sharing these reflections. Thank you for sharing about your efforts to apply the Bahá'í teachings to the effects of the very real, centuries-old disease that afflicts America. Sending love.
  • Hooshang S. Afshar
    Jun 1, 2020
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    Abdul-Baha revealed a prayer for America - perhaps it needs prayer and all Americans should offer prayers for this, as a reporter called it, "this divided nation."
  • Rezal Martinez-Gillies
    Jun 1, 2020
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    Thank you so much, Tim, for sharing your voice. So much love to you.
  • May 31, 2020
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    Thanks for the heart share brother. Peace and courage to you as we take these millstones around our necks and turn them first into stepping stones then bridges of understanding.
  • Anne Sadeghpour
    May 31, 2020
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    Thank you, dear Tim. Your essay, and others like it which are gripping my heart these days, are helping me read the Writings through a new lens. With deep appreciation for all you are and do, Anne
  • Norman Stutters
    May 31, 2020
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    As a white man from the U.K. I have always felt lucky because of the open racism by what are referred to in our press as rednecks. Racism arises in part because the first thing we notice about a new face is the colour of their skin, followed by their sex and bulk. But that doesn't make one racist - what matters is the following thoughts .. a new face to engage with or euch. I was a police officer here and overt racist comments in my force resulted in dismissal. I see the U.S. as backward and primitive - ...putting a man on the moon does not make a country a civilised one. And many 'rednecks' claim christianity - but Jesus was not a white man. It is our different experiences that excite our curiosity - prejudice shuts all the good things out.
    Read more...
  • James Fairley
    May 30, 2020
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    Thank you so much for this and thank you also to Cynthia Barnes Slater for her piece that appeared yesterday and the day before. Fantastic essays, if that is appropriate to say in light of the topic. Blood will run in the streets of America if we don't overcome this incessant racism that mars this country.
  • Barbara Neafcy
    May 30, 2020
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    Tears flowing as I read this. Thank you so much. Clearly you and George Floyd share in the large stature. He was called 'Gentle Giant' by his peers. Now I've learned there are two of you. Thank you! ?
  • Cynthia Barnes Slater
    May 30, 2020
    -
    Thank you, brother for your heartfelt and eloquent essay!
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